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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Is Christianity a Team or Individual Sport?

“Those of us who choose to treat Christianity as a team sport have a special advantage.”

I love this quote by Larry Osbourne in his book “Spirituality For The Rest of Us.”  He is talking about the value of being in a Life Group.  Seeing the growth and strengthening of our faith as  something we do together has distinct advantages over seeing our life of faith as an individual exercise.

He says there are three advantages to being connected with a small group of people:
  1. 1.     It’s hard to hide.  All of us wear masks to keep people at a distance and to protect our reputations or how people view us.  When we get to know a group of people and people get to know us we have a better chance of someone encouraging us when we need it or kicking us in the rear when we need it.  The key phrase?  …when we need it…”.  When we are alone, people don’t know what we need.
  2. 2.     We get the benefit of positive peer pressure.  Check our Hebrews 10:24-25.  When we hang out together, we help each love better and do the right thing more often.  That’s positive peer pressure.
  3. 3.     We have a place to be honest.  We all need people who want to know how we are really doing and who can handle the truth.  Sometimes life stinks.  We need people we can be honest with about that.  Sometimes life is glorious.  We need people who can rejoice with us.

It doesn’t happen all at once and it doesn’t happen with every person in a group but when we take the step to regularly connect with a group of people to encourage each other, pray for each other and learn with each other, good things begin to happen.

Who are you connected to?  No one should be standing alone.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Community Prayer

Each month I get the opportunity to pray at the beginning of the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting.  I view it as a real privilege.  Here is my prayer for today.  Pray with me for our community, our country and our world.

BOS Prayer  October 19, 2010

Dear Heavenly Father,

In this season of sound bites and distortions of truth and facts, I pray for wisdom and discernment to understand what is really true.  I pray that those who have been elected and hired to serve the people of El Dorado County would always take the high road of integrity, honesty and uprightness.  I pray in the times of honest disagreement that are necessary to sort through the issues there would be civility and respect.

For this Board today I pray you would bless them with joy and laughter in the midst of the hard work of governing our county in challenging times.  Thank you for the abundant and amazing blessings you have given us in El Dorado County.  In our efforts to be good stewards help us not forget to care for the old, the young and the weak in our community.

We pray for peace in our world and protection over those who are serving in the armed forces and law enforcement to preserve and protect that peace that we so greatly value.

I pray these things in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Love Stinks

OK, I’m going to date myself here but back in 1980 the J. Geils Band came out with a song that got quite a bit of air time on the radio.  The song was called “Love Stinks.”  The lyricist for this song seems to have had a significant lapse in creativity since the majority of the song was the band shouting out the phrase “Love Stinks!”  Man, I miss being a teenager! (NOT!)  If you want to be reminded of how profound the song is, Google it and listen to it online (don’t pay the .69 cents on iTunes!).

Last week I talked about three things that can really get people stirred up – love, hate and forgiveness.  It is hard to love, it is easy to justify hate and it seems impossible to forgive sometimes.  What do we do?

Some people I know closely and love dearly have had some really bad things happen to them or to the people they care about.  Most often some bad people have been the cause of the pain.  And there is the rub.  What do you do with these bad people who don’t have any interest in being good, of being sorry, of making things right?  What do you do with some of the plain ole evil that is out there that we brush up against?  How can we love?  How can we NOT hate?  Does God seriously expect me to forgive?

The power of the Christian faith is it invites us to see things from the perspective of eternity – especially in the midst of our suffering.  One of the greatest truths is knowing that God is perfectly just.  He will set things right, in the end perfect justice will take place.

Anger, bitterness and hatred are my desire to mete out justice.  And part of us believes we are truly punishing the other person by our hatred.  But we are only punishing ourselves by allowing the cancer of hatred to eat away our soul.

Forgiveness is the antidote to the poison of bitterness.  But it is a supernatural act, it is something that is made possible by God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  We are to long for justice, to pray for justice and to work for justice but we must allow justice to take place in God’s order.  And we must daily live in trust of Jesus, walking in his forgiveness so we have the power to forgive others.  It is not easy.  But it is not impossible.  God makes a way if we are willing to follow.  God’s love doesn’t stink, it saves.

Remember, as Christ-followers, we know the end of the story.  And it is good.


“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
 “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
Revelation 21:3-4, 22:12-13

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Almost Christian

A book I picked up recently has really gotten me troubled.  The book was written in response to the National Study of Youth and Religion that was conducted about five years ago.  The study looked at the faith lives of teens in America and the news was not good. The author of  “Almost Christian:  What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church” (by Kenda Creasy Dean) looks at the results of this study and gives insights into both youth and the church.  Here is something she says:

“The problem does not seem to be that churches are teaching young people badly, but that we are doing an exceedingly good job of teaching youth what we really believe:  namely, that Christianity is not a big deal, that God requires little, and the church is a helpful social institution filled with nice people focused primarily on “folks like us” – which, of course, begs the question of whether we are really the church at all.”


Dean goes on to say: “What if the blasé’ religiosity of most American teenagers is not the result of poor communication but the result of excellent communication of a watered-down gospel so devoid of God’s self-giving love in Jesus Christ, so immune to the sending love of the Holy Spirit that it might not be Christianity at all?”

Double ouch.

Things like this make me sit back and evaluate and ask the hard questions.  What kind of life do my kids see me living?  What kind of church do they see?  What are we communicating through our lives to those who are watching?  Is there any power at all in our faith?

As we spend time in 1 John, looking at what it means to experience true Biblical Community I am personally being challenged to live an authentic faith.  What I’m coming to more deeply understand is, it isn’t just about my faith, it is about the future generations too.  My understanding and living out of the Gospel impacts the world I live in – most powerfully my family.  Together we should be helping each other live an authentic faith.  The future depends upon it.

How are you doing in having an authentic faith and helping others live it as well?  Need some help?  I do.  Let’s stand together.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

No One Stands Alone

When I was in seminary I developed a friendship with one of my professors.  He was a great guy but he went through a tough season in life that left him spiraling into a serious, deep depression.  We would talk about what was going on and I would try my best to encourage him but the darkness kept reaching out and grabbing hold of his heart and soul.

One cold, blustery Chicago Saturday I felt I needed to drive the 30 miles to his house to go see him.  It was just one of those Holy Spirit moments that I said “yes” to.  When I arrived at his house and knocked on the door, his wife answered and told me that he really didn’t want to see anyone.  For some reason - probably had something to do with that 30 miles I had just come - I said “That’s OK, I want to see him.”, and I brushed past her and found him in the basement of the house.  I don’t remember what the conversation was.  I think it was mostly silence.  But I sat with my friend, listened a lot, talked a little.

Later on we talked about that day.  It was a pivotal day for him because I showed I cared.  I wouldn’t let his wife stand in the way (literally!) of reaching out to him and just being with him.  He knew at that point that he didn’t stand alone, he had someone on his side.

There are too many of us standing alone.

We are going to take the next few weeks and delve into what it means to be a community of faith.  Through the wisdom of 1 John I want us to see that if we are living biblically, No One Stands Alone.

That phrase is what I dream will be descriptive of Cold Springs Community Church – that everyone will be loved and cared for.  We aren’t there yet, we have a bunch of work to do.  I also dream it will be prescriptive for Cold Springs Community Church – we will each take to heart our responsibility to experience Biblical community – we all would have a heart that no one will stand alone.

Here is a way to begin living that out in a small way.  Don’t let anyone sit alone.  When you come to church (Cold Springs or any other church, for that matter), forget about sitting in your favorite, comfortable spot.  Look to see if anyone is sitting alone, go sit by them and say Hi to them.  It is a small thing.  Small things make big impact.

Will you join me in seeing that no one stands alone?  I really need you to stand with me.

Standing with you.